Posts by: Stephanie

Helping Those Who Have Been Hurt By the Church

Helping Those Who Have Been Hurt By the Church

Today there are about 32 million Americans who were raised in the Catholic faith but have separated from the Church and are no longer practicing. Some leave over disagreements about Church doctrine or because they simply become disenchanted with the Church of their upbringing. For others, however, their separation is the result of being hurt by a member of the Church. Being hurt by the Church can be especially painful because it was created by Christ to bring people to Him, not drive them away.

There are many different situations where someone could feel hurt by the Church, from feeling unwelcome to serious abuse. Every situation is different, but everyone who has been hurt by a member of the Church needs to experience the love and compassion of Christ through us. If you know someone who has been hurt by a member of the Church, here are some ways to reach out to them.

Empathy. Acknowledge that they are hurting and try to understand how their negative experience made them feel. Saying “The Church is perfect but all people are sinful” is a true statement, but starting out with that can sound dismissive and make it seem as though you care more about defending the reputation of the Church than about the wounds of your loved one. As Pope Francis said,

“You have to heal the wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds. Heal the wounds.”

Clarify misunderstanding. It may be that a person leaves the Church because they have misunderstood or been mislead regarding a teaching or practice of the Church. Perhaps they think, or have been told, that if they are divorced they have committed a mortal sin and are no longer welcome to receive the Eucharist. Or maybe they think the Church hates gay people because she does not allow or endorse same-sex marriage. Neither of these are true, but they are misunderstandings that can certainly lead someone away from the Church. If there was hurt caused by a misunderstanding of Church teaching, try to explain and clarify what the Church actually teaches. If you don’t have an answer, it’s OK to say, “That doesn’t sound right. Let me look into it and get back to you.” Catholic Answers is a great resource for learning what and why the Church teaches what she does, and can help you in clarifying any misunderstandings.

Seek justice. If someone was hurt by a member of the Church it is important that things be made right. If the hurt is the result of an argument or unkind comment, apologies should be made to the person who was unjustly hurt. If it involves abuse, it is important that the abuse is reported. Contact your local police authorities immediately. If the abuse involves a minor, also contact your state’s Department of Children and Family Services.

Help in the healing process. Healing takes time, and when trust is broken it needs to be rebuilt. Be willing to walk along the journey with them, realizing that it may take some time. If you feel like you can’t give your loved one the support they need, put them in contact with someone you trust who can help them in the healing process. And pray for healing every day. God wants to pour His grace into those who are hurting, as Scripture tells us:

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

Be a witness. Many people leave the Church because they see Church members who are hypocritical. So strive to be a living witness of Christ in the world. This doesn’t mean you are a failure if you aren’t perfect all the time; but when you do wrong, admit it and work to be better. Through humility and charity, try to bring Christ to all you meet, especially those who have been hurt by members of His Church.

Invite them to come home. The Catholic Church has the sacraments that Jesus instituted to pour out His grace on us, including His very own body and blood in the Eucharist. It is a tragedy if the actions of a Church member keep people from accessing these sacraments. So no matter how long your loved one has been away from the Catholic Church, invite them to come home. Let them know about a Catholics Come Home program in your area. They may not take you up on your first invitation, but continue to let them know that they are always welcome whenever they are ready to return.

How to Make Prayer a Part of Your Daily Routine

How to Make Prayer a Part of Your Daily Routine

We know prayer is important. We know we should pray. But it’s so easy to just … not. With busy schedules and a million distractions, prayer can be the first thing to fall off our radar. But we can’t have a relationship with God without prayer. We can’t live our faith without prayer. So if we want to make God a priority, we need to make prayer a priority. Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft has some advice for us:

“The single most important piece of advice about prayer is one word: Begin!”

The best way to make prayer a part of your life is to make it a part of your daily routine. Make it as natural and integral as brushing your teeth. Below are some tips to get you started:

Have a plan. Figure out a time and place that you will pray each day. Maybe it’s while you drink your morning coffee, on your commute, your lunch break, your child’s nap time, or right before bed. Find spaces in your day that offer the opportunity to connect with God, and commit to filling it up with prayer. If you can’t find space in your day, figure out what you need to sacrifice in order to make prayer a priority.

Know yourself. The best plans will fall apart if you don’t keep in mind your strengths and weaknesses. If you commit to waking up early to pray but you have a habit of hitting the snooze button, you’re likely to snooze through your prayer time. So choose a time when you are more likely to be awake and present for prayer. If you commit to pray the Rosary each day but it seems like a drudgery, then you’re likely to view prayer as something you have to just get through rather than something you look forward to. So don’t just choose a devotion because other people are doing it, choose a devotion you truly enjoy.

Use technology. Technology can definitely distract us from prayer, with e-mails, text messages, and social media calling for our attention at all hours. But it can also be a great tool for your prayer life. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you of your prayer time. Download a Catholic prayer app so you have your prayers right at your fingertips (here are some suggestions). Download the Immaculate Heart Radio app and pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet along with us (see schedule) or listen to Immaculate Heart Sacred Music to create a peaceful, prayerful environment.

Be open to change. Once you’re in a nice groove with your daily prayer, life changes can still throw you off. Work and family obligations can disrupt your prayer life, but they don’t have to dismantle it. If your prayer routine is thrown off, then simply create a new routine. For example, if you’re in the habit of going to daily Mass in the morning but a new job makes that impossible, create a new habit of stopping by an adoration chapel before or after work. Life changes, and it’s OK if your prayer life changes with it, as long as you don’t lose your commitment to daily prayer.

Avoid discouragement. There are bound to be times when you miss or choose to skip your daily prayer. Don’t give in to the temptation of thinking that daily prayer is too hard, or you’re not holy enough to do it. Even if it’s been weeks, months, or years since you last prayed, choose today to start again. If you are feeling discouraged, remember these words from St. Francis de Sales:

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.”

Remember – it’s a relationship. Prayer is not something to simply check off your to-do list, like doing the laundry or getting your oil changed. It’s a relationship with the living God.  So rather than just going through the motions, try to truly connect with God each day. Listen to Him as much as you talk to Him. Continue praying outside of your designated prayer time by being grateful for a beautiful sunset or asking Him for help in a moment of stress or anger. In heaven we will see God face to face, so connecting with God in prayer is like a preview of heaven. Who would want to miss a single day of that?

Father Robert Barron appointed auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles

Father Robert Barron appointed auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles

Wonderful news from the Vatican today, as Pope Francis named three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, including Father Robert Barron. Father Barron is the founder of Word on Fire ministries and the creator of the acclaimed CATHOLICISM film series. He is a pioneer in the New Evangelization, with more than 13 million views of his regular Youtube videos, and next to Pope Francis he is the most followed Catholic leader on social media.

Below is Bishop-elect Barron’s statement on his new appointment:

It was with enormous surprise that I received word of my appointment as auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, but it is with a humble and joyful heart that I accept it. The Church of Los Angeles—the most populous in the United States—is energetic, diverse, and creative. Over the years, I’ve visited many times, including multiple trips to the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim; most recently, I was in the Archdiocese for a lecture at Thomas Aquinas College. So though I can’t claim to know it well, I have been able to taste and see some of its richness.

The late Francis Cardinal George—the spiritual grandfather of Word on Fire—was a mentor and friend to me. The mission closest to his heart was the evangelization of the culture, bringing Christ to the arenas of media, politics, law, education, the arts, etc. I can’t think of a more exciting field for this sort of work than Los Angeles, which is certainly one of the great cultural centers of our time.

Many might be wondering what this means for the important work of Word on Fire. The short answer is that it will certainly continue! Through the ministrations of Fr. Steve Grunow and his extremely gifted staff, we will keep bringing you my regular articles, sermons, videos, and media resources.

We have so many projects in the works, including our new film and study program on God and atheism, titled The Mystery of God, and our beautiful new documentary series CATHOLICISM: The Pivotal Players. Those projects will continue as planned with more to come in the future.

I am grateful to all of you who follow and support Word on Fire, using our content to form yourselves and share the Catholic Faith. I thank God each and every day for you.

It is a blessing for me to work with you to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite them to share all the gifts he wants his people to enjoy.

Please pray for me as I begin this new adventure under the Lord’s providence.

– Bishop-Elect Robert Barron

Read more on Bishop-elect Barron and his new appointment at The Tidings.